Members of the opposition parties triggered a din in Jharkhand assembly on Friday over the 2012 cash-for-vote controversy, forcing the speaker to adjourn the House twice before the finance minister tabled the annual budget.
In its Friday edition, HT reported that according to three witnesses of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), 17 sitting legislators of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) took bribes from two independent candidates to support them in the 2012 Rajya Sabha elections. The election commission countermanded the March 30 polls after the horse-trading charges surfaced.
Holding copies of HT, some of the opposition MLAs jumped into the Well and demanded a probe by a special investigation team into the matter. Speaker Sashank Sekhar Bhokta told the House that the state could not interfere in the case since it was being investigated by the CBI. He was hopeful that the case would reach a logical end with the CBI at the helm.
But members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), AJSU Party and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) continued with their protest.
The HT report said that the CBI witnesses, in their confessional statements before a court, alleged that JMM legislators, barring chief minister Hemant Soren, took Rs 2.5 crore each to vote for RK Agarwal, a Jamshedpur-based industrialist, and Pawan Dhoot, a Kolkata-based businessman.
As soon as the third day of the budget session began around 11 am, opposition parties started shouting anti-government slogans, stalling the budget presentation. Bhokta adjourned the House till 11:30am.
When the House resumed, some JMM legislators hit back at the BJP, saying the saffron party was the "biggest con (maha thug)". The speaker warned the protesters of action, but they did not budge.
The House was adjourned again at 11:55am. Protests continued after it reconvened, but finance minister Rajendra Prasad Singh somehow managed to table his budget.
"There is a serious charge against 17 legislators. FIRs should be lodged against them no matter how influential they are," said BJP legislator and ex-deputy chief minister Raghuvar Das.
"We do not trust the CBI as it dances to the tune of the Congress," he said, demanding a SIT probe monitored by the high court.
The present ruling coalition in Jharkhand comprises the JMM, Congress, RJD and independents. The BJP and the JMM have 18 legislators each in the 81-member House. The Congress has 11 seats.
The BJP-JMM alliance was in power when the cash-for-vote controversy surfaced in 2012.